Every year, for the past nine years, I am blessed to take a two week trip with high school students. One week we partner with Habitat for Humanity and one week attend a student ministry camp called Bigstuf. Basically, we spend over fifty hours on a bus, in the southern heat, serving side by side… there is loads of laughing, sharing and worshiping together.
It takes some intentional planning to invest two weeks every summer for nearly the past decade. In the beginning, I had two young kids, a full schedule and not a lot of vision of how I was going to squeeze in time away from it all. After years of practice, I have navigated the details of childcare, pet care, covering ministry & work roles, etc. It takes diligence to think ahead, but the reward is great. I’ve realized that intentionally blocking this trip in my schedule each year has truly mattered and has positively impacted the relationships I have with my small group students.
Here’s what I’ve seen God do:
1. When you allow your students to see you at your worst, they’re more likely to show you their own ups and downs. Each year, I’ve been able to serve side by side with my students. There’s nothing like seeing someone at their absolute worst: sweaty, overtired, and frustrated with having to put up the same piece of siding nine times. And, as a result, my students were comfortable showing me the same… and we could process together all of the good, bad and ugly parts that God brought into the experience.
2. Serving together creates stories that build a bridge to a lasting relationship. Spending this amount of time together cements the existing relationship into something that’s stronger. It’s an immediate impact. We’ve gone through a shared experienced together. We have a story that we can tell.
There also seems to be a long-term impact as well. Those who have moved out of student ministry after taking part in these trips, still talk about how God stretched, changed and challenged them. Through a shared experience, those relationships have stuck and conversations have continued, even beyond the high school years.
3. A better relationship with the parents is built. Letting the parents of your kids have a voice, gives you the ability to easily partner with those parents. For this trip, we ask for specific input/insight from their parents so that we know their heart/thoughts/desires for what they want their kids to experience. It’s a great way for us to honor the parents and also gain an inside perspective to our kids.
I hear people say that connections just happen – when people click, they click. Sometimes this is true, but most often connections require intentional time set aside to be together. You may not be able to take two weeks away, but you can still be intentional about planning specific times that will further the relationship you have with your students. Serve together, play together, worship together. Those planned times matter!
What are some of the best times you’ve spent with your group?